Archive for Jesus Montero
By now you’ve heard about the ordeal endured by Nationals’ catcher Wilson Ramos, who was kidnapped from his home (at gunpoint) in Venezuela before being rescued two days later. Jesus Montero grew up near Ramos and played with him as a kid, so the incident hit a little closer to home for him. “He is my friend,” said Montero to Roger Rubin. “I felt sad because I’ve known him for a long time. I was really worried when I saw the news. I was crying a little bit. It’s not an easy situation he was living. Thank God everything is fine and the police, they took care of it.”
Despite Ramos’ incident and several others in recent years, Montero is still planning to go home to Venezuela for about a month in December. “You’ve got to be careful where you go or where you are,” he said to Dan Martin. “Venezuela is not easy. You’ve got to know where you’re at and you’ll be good.” Montero hasn’t hired any kind of private security, he just plans to stay at home and with his family a lot, and be extra cautious when he goes out. After his trip home, he’s heading to Miami to train with Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Long.
At his press conference yesterday, Brian Cashman made it sound as though Jesus Montero‘s presence on the 2012 roster is a certainty. “He could be a catcher, he could be a DH, he could be a bat off the bench, depending on how the roster looks,” he said. Of course, that leaves out one possibility. Cashman did speak to this possibility, though not to Montero specifically: “If anybody wants to approach me on anybody on this roster, if they don’t have a full no-trade clause, worst I can tell em is no.” Yes, there is a chance that Montero opens the 2012 season in a different uniform. But just how likely is that scenario?
When speaking of the Yankees off-season plans, Cashman uttered a familiar refrain. “Pitching, pitching, pitching. That will be the main trust of this stuff.” The Yankees have a number of able candidates for the rotation, but with close competition from the Rays and the Red Sox, and with the second Wild Card adding emphasis to winning the division, the Yankees would do well to add another high-end arm to complement CC Sabathia. A few options exist on the free agent market, namely C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish, But there is a good chance the Yankees avoid another long-term deal and instead pursue the trade market.
Should the Yankees seek another team’s pitcher, Montero would prove a valuable trade chip — perhaps the Yankees’ most valuable, though left-hander Manny Banuelos will surely garner plenty of interest. In fact, just last week FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron, writing for ESPN Insider (sub. required), suggested that Cashman “use Jesus Montero as trade bait to get the front-line starter he really covets.” For the DH slot the Yankees could sign David Ortiz, turning the tables on the rival Red Sox. Yet there are two problems with the idea of trading Montero, and neither involves prospect love.
If the Yankees stick to their payroll level from the past few seasons, they could run into a snag when trading Montero. He’s ultra-cheap, and will remain so for the next three seasons. Before factoring in arbitration figures for Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Russell Martin, Brett Gardner, and David Robertson the Yankees already have $174 million committed to the 2012 payroll. A rough estimate puts those totals a little under $20 million, so the Yankees are already near their previous $200 million level. Adding Ortiz would cost them at least $13 million in 2012, and a frontline starter could cost just as much, if not more. That’s quite a payroll bump.
The other reason involves the Yankees matching up with other teams. Montero is not a player the Yankees should dangle for any old pitcher. He has immense value, even if he’s stuck at DH (or 1B for another team), in his bat alone. He is not, in other words, a player the Yankees should trade for someone with one or two years remaining before free agency. The only scenario in which they should consider trading him involves a 25- to 28-year-old starter who has at least three more seasons of team control. He has to be an established starter, and his current team has to either 1) have enough of a pitching surplus that they can spare such a valuable arm, and 2) have a need for offense, particularly at first base or DH.
That doesn’t sound like a large group of teams and players to make a match.
After scouring each team’s roster and removing the players who absolutely won’t move anywhere — think Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, etc. — and teams that will surely contend in 2012, I’ve come up with only three names.
Mat Latos: This is the first and most attractive match. Latos is just 24 years old, and despite a rough start to the season — perhaps due to a big innings jump between 2009 and 2010 — he still finished with quality numbers. He strikes out plenty and has a decent walk rate. Even factoring in his HR/FB ratio, perhaps a product of Petco Park, he still grades out as a very good starter. At 24 he should only get better. The Padres might want more than just Montero, but the Yankees have a number of major league ready pitchers who could go along in the deal. For Latos it could be worthwhile. It doesn’t hurt that Cashman and new Padres GM Josh Byrnes hooked up on a relatively complex deal two years ago.
Jaime Garcia: This is unlikely, mostly because St. Louis recently inked him to a long-term extension. Garcia has just two years in the majors, but they’ve been two impressive years. He combines a decent strikeout rate with good control and ground ball tendencies, which makes for a quality starting pitcher. He ran into some problems later in 2010, likely because he was gassed — he threw 163.1 innings in 2010 after just 33.2, while rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery, in 2009. When he’s on he has stuff that dives and darts all over the strike zone, and he could absolutely be a No. 2 for the Yankees. Unfortunately, the Cardinals probably need him more than they need Montero, who wouldn’t fit with the Cardinals unless Albert Pujols signed elsewhere. Even then, it’s unlikely they’d part with a 25-year-old pitcher with a quality major league record.
Jordan Zimmermann: Chances are the Nationals envision a rotation that includes both Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg at its head, so they’re not likely to deal him. If they did make him available, the Yankees would have to listen. He showed impeccable control in 2011, one year removed from Tommy John Surgery, and he could be even better heading into 2012, his age-26 season. As with Garcia he combines a quality strikeout rate with a low walk rate, though he doesn’t get as many ground balls. Still, if the Nationals want to add Montero as their first baseman, the Yankees should settle for no less than Zimmermann.
As you can see, the options are not only slim, but unlikely. Of the three Latos has the greatest chance of moving east in a trade, and even that’s not so likely given the state of San Diego’s farm system. With the lack of matches, combined with the payroll issue, it’s highly unlikely that the Yankees could trade Montero for something they’d consider equal value, even if they were inclined to do so. There are no guarantees, of course, but I’d bet decent money that Montero opens the 2012 season wearing pinstripes with the interlocking NY on his chest.
Brian Cashman held a conference call with reporters this afternoon following the announcement of his new three-year contract, and he downplayed the significance of running a New York team. “It’s an easier situation for me because I haven’t really been anywhere else,” said the Yankees-lifer. “This is all I know.”
The biggest piece of news to come out of the conference call was Andrew Brackman’s release. You win some and you lose
some a lot in the draft, and in Brackman’s case, the Yankees spent nearly $11M (according to Pete Caldera) to have him face 13 big league hitters. Ouch. Cashman also confirmed that the starting rotation will continue to be the team’s priority this offseason (duh), though they could still add a second left-handed reliever as well. Here’s a list of the free agent lefty relievers, in case you’re wondering who might fill Damaso Marte‘s DL spot next season. Here are the rest of the notes from the press conference…
- “We’re in a position now to take our time and explore and digest as well as pursue, but at our own pace, not in an emotional or reactive state,” said Cashman when asked about pursuing pitching. “It allows us to survey the landscape in a more conservative way. [Re-signing CC Sabathia] provides us a lot of security.” (Mark Feinsand, Chad Jennings & Marc Carig)
- “He’s had to deal with adversity because of the inconsistent performance,”said Cashman when asked about A.J. Burnett. “He still was able to step up in October.” Cashman did laud Burnett’s ability to take the ball every five days and be accountable after his starts. Unless something unexpected happens, A.J will be in the rotation next season. (Kim Jones)
- As for Yu Darvish, Cashman simply said: “I think like with anything else you learn over time. I think we’re more prepared today than we have been in the past.” I take that to mean the Yankees did more research on Darvish than they did with Kei Igawa, but that’s a quote open to (mis)interpretation. (Jon Lane)
- Cashman confirmed that Rafael Soriano did not exercise his opt-out clause before last night’s deadline and will be with the team in 2012. (Anthony McCarron)
- When asked about soon-to-be free agents like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, Cashman said: “I don’t anticipate a bat being a need at all. Offense is not a problem with this club despite what happened in the Detroit series.” (Bryan Hoch & Feinsand)
- Picking up Nick Swisher‘s option was “an easy call,” and the GM isn’t concerned too much about his right fielder’s third straight poor postseason showing. (Feinsand)
- As for Jesus Montero‘s role with the team next season, Cashman said: “He could be a catcher, he could be a DH, he could be a bat off the bench, depending on how the roster looks.” (Jones)
- As for the trade market, Cashman said he’s open “to anybody’s ideas” and is willing to discuss a deal involving Burnett or pretty much anyone else on the roster. “If anybody wants to approach me on anybody on this roster, if they don’t have a full no-trade clause, worst I can tell em is no.” Burnett has a partial no-trade clause, but as yesterday’s Derek Lowe trade showed, A.J. has minimal trade value. (Jones, Hoch & Dan Barbarisi)
- Cashman said that a long-term deal for Russell Martin is possible, but he likes the flexibility that their upper level catching depth provides. “He’s under our control [as an arbitration-eligible player]. He was fantastic, he didn’t disappoint … I’m a big fan.” (Kim Jones)
- Cashman on Jorge Posada‘s future: “That’s something we’ll have to discuss here on the short term … it’s not something I’m prepared to talk about today.” (Barbarisi)
- “[Frankie Cervelli] is fine,” said Cashman. “He’s full-bore, ready to go as a catcher.” That’s good news. Frankie suffered his third concussion in four years in early-September. (Jones)
- Cashman also confirmed that no one big league roster needs any kind of offseason surgery. (Jennings)
You might have seen this earlier, but Dan Szymborski posted his 2012 Yankees ZiPS Projections early Monday afternoon, the first team of the offseason. You can click the link and peruse all of the projections at your leisure, but I’m going to spend some time focusing on everyone’s favorite player, Jesus Montero. We’ll discuss the other guys at some point this offseason … eventually.
Following his big September debut (.328/.406/.590 and a .421 wOBA), the ZiPS system forecasts a .271/.333/.486 batting line with 37 doubles and 27 homers in 579 at-bats for Montero in 2012. At first glance, that might seen a bit disappointing because of the generally low AVG and the OBP, but it most definitely shouldn’t be. I said this on Twitter, but if Montero does that next season, he’ll probably win Rookie of the Year even if the majority of his at-bats come as a DH*. ZiPS isn’t being tricked by that big September either, the system called for almost exactly the same thing for 2011: a .276/.334/.503 line with 34 doubles and 28 homers in 539 at-bats.
* For comparison’s sake, Eric Hosmer hit .293/.334/.465 with 27 doubles and 19 homers in 523 at-bats this year, and he should finish either first or second in the voting.
I see Montero’s current situation as similar to Ivan Nova‘s after last season, at least to a certain extent. Nova wasn’t great in September 2010 but he showed enough to warrant a much longer looking 2011, which he got and in turn rewarded the Yankees. Montero made such a strong impression last month that the team has almost no choice but to play him full-time next season, it’s just a question of where. We’ve talked about the whole DH/backup catcher thing, but putting it into practice is much easier said than done. The ZiPS numbers don’t mean anything at the end of the day, but they’re a nice little reminder of just how much Montero can help the Yankees if given the chance.
Standard Disclaimer: Projections are not predictions. Dave Cameron put it best when he said “Projections are information about what we think we currently know, while predictions are speculation about things that we probably cannot know.”
I swear, one of these weeks I’m going to do a Jesus Montero-free mailbag. Maybe next week, just to see how it goes. Hopefully you folks don’t revolt or something. Anyway, we’ve got two Montero-related and three non-Montero-related questions this week. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the easiest (and preferred) way of sending questions in. Thanks.
Chris asks: I wrote to you guys earlier about Montero’s conditioning assignment. What is the pro of keeping him as a catcher? Just trade value? Look at all the catchers that break down because of the position. Mauer being a great example. I’d rather keep that bat in an area where he can remain healthy for a LONG time.
That’s the exact reason why the Nationals moved Bryce Harper to right field the instant they signed him two summers ago, and I can see that side of the argument. The pros of keeping Montero at catcher, not that he’s much to write home about back there, is that he’d simply be more valuable at that position, both to the Yankees or in a potential trade. Catchers that can rake are rare and therefore extremely valuable. The downside if obvious, he and his bat would need regular days off, the nagging injuries, etc.
I agree with moving him to a position that will allow him to play every day and theoretically remain productive, but what position is that? Okay, DH is obvious, but what else is there? Mark Teixeira still has five years left on his contract, so first base isn’t much of an option even though it’s the most logical spot. The outfield isn’t going to happen, at least not anytime soon. That’s not the easiest transition to make. Split duty at DH and behind the plate, maybe 100 games at DH and 40 behind the dish, seems like the most logical plan for Montero next year, then reevaluate after the season.
Evan asks: Assuming, and I know this is a huge assumption, that Albert Pujols signs anywhere besides with the Cardinals, do you think a Shelby Miller for Jesus Montero swap makes sense?
I don’t, actually. If the Cardinals lose Pujols, they’ll just stick Lance Berkman at first and play Allen Craig in right, or use Craig with a platoon partner, something like that. Obviously Montero wouldn’t catch for them with Yadier Molina around. Miller is arguably the best right-handed pitching prospect in the game, but he’s thrown just 86.2 IP above A-ball. That’s not enough of a sure thing to get back in a Montero trade in my book. I’d prefer a player that’s unquestionably ready to step in and play in the big leagues right now, kinda like Jesus.
Nick asks: Who are the prospects that can replace Nick Swisher after 2012?
There aren’t any really, and that’s part of the reason why the Yankees brought in guys like Justin Maxwell and Jordan Parraz last offseason. Their outfield depth at the upper levels of the minors is pretty thin. Melky Mesa has a long way to go before he can be considered a viable big league option, and both Abe Almonte and Mason Williams are years away from being options. Slade Heathcott needs to stay healthy for a full year before we can think him getting to Double-A, nevermind the bigs. If the Yankees let Swisher walk after 2012, they’d have to fill the position from outside the organization. Either that or take a big hit in production.
Kevin asks: Will Yu Darvish generate a posting fee as high as Dice-K? Will a shallow free agent market balance out the recent dismal big Japanese pitcher free agent history i.e workload, adapting to a new culture? Who would you choose considering price between Darvish and Wilson? Is it possible to grab both and fill out the rotation with C.C., Wilson, Darvish, Nova and Hughes? Thanks.
I don’t think anyone knows what kind of posting fee Darvish will require, it’s all guesswork. It’s worth noting that although the Red Sox won the right to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka with that $51.1M bid, the second highest bid was $39-40M by the Mets. Boston really blew everyone out of the water for Dice-K. Darvish is supposedly better than Dice-K, but baseball salaries have come down a bit in recent years, and I do think Matsuzaka will scare some teams into lowering their bid. It only takes one team to go overboard though, and I’m willing to bet it takes at least $40M or so land him.
As for Darvish vs. C.J. Wilson, I’d rather go with Darvish. Wilson is the safer bet, sure, but Darvish offers more upside (and more risk) and is considerably younger. There’s also the benefit of keeping the draft pick and saving money because the posting fee is not counted towards the luxury tax. Wilson is the safe move and is probably the better bet in 2012 and 2013, but over the next five or six years, Darvish is the guy I want. And no, I don’t think the Yankees, or any team for that matter, will land both guys this winter.
Anthony asks: I was wondering if you can see the Yankees trading Phil Hughes this offseason. He’s been with the team for a while now (since ’07, no?) and we’ve only seen him perform to his expectations just twice: as a lights out reliever in ’09 and as a dominant starter in the first half of the ’10 season. What would someone like Hughes get the Yankees in a trade?
Hughes’ value is at an all-time low right now, so I can’t imagine they’d get much in return. He’s not that young anymore, nor is he cheap and under team control for another half-decade. He’ll make something like $3-4M in 2012, his second time through arbitration, then become a free agent after the 2013 season. I could definitely see the Yankees trading him, but I doubt they’d get anything special in return. Maybe another kid like Hughes, struggling to take the next step at the big league level. The Yankees aren’t exactly in a position to give away potential starters though, so I’m not sure I’d be okay with dealing him for another reclamation project just because.
Via Chad Jennings, the Yankees have decided to have Jesus Montero skip winter ball this year. Montero is on the roster of the Navegantes del Magallanes in his native Venezuela, but it’s just a placeholder spot. The plan is to put him on a strength and conditioning program, but nothing more.
In other winter ball news, the Yankees will allow Eduardo Nunez to play this offseason, presumably back home in the Dominican Republic. They would like him to get reps in the outfield, but because he has so little service time, the Yankees are unable to control how he’s used. It’s up to his winter ball team. Hector Noesi will be starting in the winter ball, and Brian Cashman confirmed to Jennings that the right-hander will be held to a strict pitch count.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look back at what went right, what went wrong, and what went as expected during the 2011 campaign.
The Yankees had an ace up their sleeve all season. An ace capable of doing almost anything they wanted. Need a bat? A pitcher? Something else? Whatever the Yankees needed, Jesus Montero could give it to them. They had the option to insert him into the lineup if the offense needed help, and they also had the option of trading him for an arm if the pitching staff needed reinforcement. Thankfully, the pitching held up and the Yankees held on to Jesus.
The 21-year-old Montero started the season back with Triple-A Scranton, where he’d spent the previous year posting a .375 wOBA with a career high 21 homers in 123 games. He started the year off with a strong April (.365/.360/.473) even though he didn’t draw a single walk, but stumbled through May and early-June (.254/.327/.328). That led to inevitable questions about pretty much everything. His work ethic, his talent, his future with the team, you name it and it was questioned after the worst 205 plate appearance stretch of his career.
The Yankees benched Montero for two games in June due to a “lack of energy,” a few days after returning from an eye infection, fueling the narrative that he was bored with Triple-A life. Pretty much every prospect analyst dropped him in their midseason rankings. Brian Cashman admitted that Montero was a better option than incumbent backup catcher Frankie Cervelli shortly thereafter, but said the team was leaving him in the minors so he could play every single day. It was easy to twist that around and say he was being punished for the poor two months.
Montero returned to the lineup on June 13th, and like he’d done everywhere else in his career, he hit. A homerun in his first game back. Another hit the next day. Then again the next day. And again and again and again. After the benching, Montero hit .314/.376/.533 with 15 homers in 287 plate appearances, a batting line that looks an awful like the .314/.371/.511 he hit from 2007-2010, the first four years of his career. The second half surge put his final season numbers at .288/.348/.467 (.356 wOBA), and yet he had remained in Triple-A even though the Yankees were having serious DH problems at the big league level.
The Yankees finally righted a wrong (depending on who you ask) on September 1st, promoting Montero to the big leagues for the first time. They didn’t hold him back either, he started that night at DH in Fenway Park against Jon Lester in a game where a win would have tied the two teams atop the AL East. Montero’s first career at-bat came with the bases loaded in the first inning, but Lester struck him out. He didn’t have a hit that night, but he did get hit by a pitch in his fifth trip to the plate, and later came around to score the eventual winning run. An 0-for-4 debut is never fun, but it wasn’t completely unproductive.
Used primarily as the regular DH against left-handers, Montero picked up his first career knock in his second career game, a single to left off Ricky Romero. The next day came his first career two-hit game, and the day after that came his first two career homeruns. Both came off Orioles reliever Jim Johnson, a sinkerball specialist (61.5% ground ball rate) that had given up just one homer to a righty in the last calendar year. Montero hit both out to deep right field, showing off the opposite field power we’d heard so much about.
During the final month of the season, Montero hit .328/.406/.590 with four homers (Jered Weaver and Junichi Tazawa gave up the other two) in 69 plate appearances, earning a place on the postseason roster. He only batted twice in the ALDS, picking up hits in the late innings of New York’s Game Four blowout win. The Yankees only let him catch three times after the call-up, a gentle little reminder that there are still questions about his defense behind the plate. There are no questions about the bat though, Montero’s been hitting since the day the Yankees signed him, and his late season showing all but guarantees him a regular lineup spot in 2012, and hopefully many years beyond that.
Got five questions this week, but two are pretty short. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar whenever you want to send in questions in the future.
Mark asks: Could Montero be taught how to play 3B? A-Rod seemingly will need to become the Yankee’s full-time DH eventually. Do you know of any player that converted to 3B with his body type and lack of athleticism?
The official site lists Jesus Montero at 6-foot-3 and 235 lbs., and you can count the number of regular third baseman that size on one hand: Scott Rolen (6-foot-4, 240), Alex Rodriguez (6-foot-3, 230), Ryan Zimmerman (6-foot-3, 230), Mark Reynolds (6-foot-2, 220), and Danny Valencia (6-foot-2, 220). Montero’s a touch bigger than Valencia and he’s definitely not in the same class athletically as A-Rod, Rolen, or Zimmerman. That’s for sure. Reynolds moved to first base late this season, so I’m not sure he counts.
Most guys that move to third base after their fourth or fifth pro season are failed shortstops or second baseman, middle infielders moving down the defensive spectrum. Brandon Inge did the “catcher turned third base” thing, but he’s only 5-foot-11 and 190 lbs. Realistically, the only place Montero can move is to first base or DH. If they want to try the outfield, then I wish them luck. It won’t be a quick or painless transition. A-Rod looked perfectly fine on defense in the ALDS, more than fine actually, it was his bat that slowed. I don’t think we have to worry about him in the field just yet.
Tucker asks: Despite the obvious loss that would be felt by Damon Oppenheimer’s potential departure, could there be some benefits towards having him elsewhere? He knows the Yanks system so if he goes to a team, such as the Angels, could we expect some trades?
We see this happen all the time, guys leave one organization to become the GM elsewhere, then they start stockpiling players they drafted or had with their original team. Dayton Moore’s loaded up ex-Braves in Kansas City (Kyle Davis, Brayan Pena, Jeff Francoeur), Jack Zduriencik brought in a number of ex-Brewers after hooking on with the Mariners (Russell Branyan, Bill Hall, Brad Nelson), and it seems like every trade Ed Wade has made as GM of the Astros has been with the Phillies (Hunter Pence, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge). The examples go on and on.
Is there a benefit to this know? Maybe. On one hand you can argue that the new GM is overvaluing the players he knows, but on the other hand you can say that he knows them better than anyone and is digging up the hidden gems. I would definitely expect some trades, but I don’t think Oppenheimer (or Billy Eppler for that matter, since he’s up for the same job) would just give his new players to his old team out of the goodness of his heart.
Shaun asks: Just a quick question, do you think the yankees would negotiate with CC Sabathia before he opts out of his contract or would they wait? I think they waited with A-Rod at the time and took a hard stance with him. I’d argue that they would need CC more than they needed A-Rod at the time.
I agree with you about needing Sabathia now more than they needed A-Rod then, but let’s not forget how awesome Alex was four years ago. Anyway, I’m sure they would be open to negotiating with CC at some point soon, even though the company line is to wait until the contract is over. That would eliminate the hassle of the open market, and as we heard last night, the Rangers are prepared to get involved. Let’s put it this way, the Yankees have nothing to lose by talking to him about an extension beforehand.
Kevin asks: What about an A.J. Burnett for Jason Bay swap?
We’ve gotten this question a number of times, and apparently it all started with some MSM article that was published during the summer. I’m not quite sure what the goal is here, is the plan to put Bay in right and trade Nick Swisher for a pitcher? Swish alone won’t fetch a legit number two starter just because he’s a year away from free agency. The net result would end up being Burnett, Swisher, and prospects for Bay and an unknown number two starter.
Burnett’s terrible, you don’t have to tell me that, but so is Bay. As an added bonus, he’s now injury prone as well. This isn’t just a CitiField thing either folks; since joining the Mets, Bay has a .358 wOBA at home and .296 on the road. I don’t but into the idea that getting him back on the contender with somehow reinvigorate him, and I can’t imagine the Yankees will fall for that either. The deal also doesn’t work in the Yankees favor with regards to contracts. Bother are locked up for the next two years (Bay at $32M, Burnett at $33M), but Bay has an easily vesting option for 2014 (Omar Minaya’s specialty). All it takes is 500 plate appearances in both 2012 and 2013 or 600 plate appearances in 2013 alone. You’d end up trading for the guy, then hoping he doesn’t play much the next two years to prevent the option from kicking in. No win situation.
As terribad as A.J. is, the Yankees aren’t exactly in a position to trade pitching for offense, even if the corresponding move is to trade Swisher for an arm. There would be no winners in this trade, so I’d rather stick with the devil I know rather than the devil I don’t.
Dan asks: Which roster player(s) would you trade for a legitimate #2 starter?
This depends on our definition of number two starter, but I’d trade pretty much everyone other than Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, CC Sabathia, and Jesus Montero for that kind of pitcher. When I think of a number two starter, I think Matt Garza, Jamie Shields, Matt Cain, John Danks … guys like that. That’s just me though, you’re welcome to feel differently.
In terms of position players, the Yankees appear set. Seven of their eight starters are essentially guaranteed to return. Only Nick Swisher remains a question, and it appears likely that the Yankees will exercise his 2012 option. That leaves only one hole in the every day lineup: DH. Yet the Yankees appear to be set here, too. That is, unless you’ve read some mainstream opinions on the matter.
Yesterday Joel Sherman tried to squeeze Carlos Beltran into the fray, opining that the Yankees could give him 50-60 games at DH. Today Ken Davidoff offered a slightly different suggestion, offering up David DeJesus as a more affordable option. Both writers peg their guy as a part-time DH and part-time corner outfielder. That would still leave room for Jesus Montero to get plenty of reps at DH, while working in as part-time catcher. I’m just not sure that signing a free agent who will spend 1/3 of the season at DH is such a hot idea, given the current roster construction.
Sherman presents the best case scenario for Montero: 80 games at catcher, 80 games at DH. That’s best case, because it 1) allows him to audition as the catcher of the future, and 2) keeps his bat in the lineup for the most possible games. Chances are, however, that Montero will catch far fewer games than that, leaving Russell Martin to handle the pitching staff. With fewer games behind the plate Montero will find more reps at DH. A more realistic scenario would have Montero behind the plate for 45 games while DHing in 105-110.
That’s where Alex Rodriguez comes into play. Joe Girardi said that they expect Rodriguez to be their third baseman, and if he remains healthy there’s no doubt he should take the majority of games out there. But keeping him healthy is certainly a priority. Giving him reps at DH could represent a means to that end. If Montero DHs in 110 games, A-Rod could then take 40, leaving him in the field for the rest. That would leave few DH reps for a potential free agent. Hence, the Yankees should look to reinforce their roster elsewhere.
A better solution, then, would be to seek a player in the mold of Eric Chavez: solid but flawed in a way that prevents him from starting full-time. They might actually have one currently on the roster in Eduardo Nunez. In fact, the Yankees have said that they want to work him out in the outfield corners to get him more playing time. If the Yankees truly do feel this strongly about Nunez’s future, then they really have no pressing needs on offense. They have the DH spot occupied between Montero and Rodriguez, and have Rodriguez’s defensive replacement ready in Nunez. If Nunez is the backup infielder and fourth outfielder, the Yankees can fill out the bench with guys such as Chris Dickerson. There’s no need to beef it up at that point.
Speculating about the DH, then, appears to be a fruitless exercise. In fact, speculating about the offense might prove fruitless. If the Yankees like Nunez as much as they let on, they have no need for any additions this off-season. Their entire offense is already on the 40-man roster. The only way this gets interesting is if the Yankees are putting up a front with Nunez in order to increase his trade value. In that case we could see the Yankees add to the bench. But given the current rhetoric and roster construction, it appears unlikely. We’ll be in for a pitching-heavy 2012 off-season.
Joe Girardi held his annual end-of-season press conference at Yankee Stadium this afternoon, and unlike last year, there wasn’t any significant news to be broken. No coaches were fired, no secret injuries were unveiled, no talk about contracts for legacy players. The overwhelming theme was the idea of “clutch” and “clutch players,” just every other question was about that (seriously). I thought Girardi handled that well, saying that a lot of times it’s a function of luck, especially in a short series when things don’t have a chance to even out.
Anyway, the press conference was broadcast on YES, and had I know sooner, I probably would have live-blogged it. That’s my bad. Here’s a recap of the important stuff…
- “He’s extremely important to our rotation, we rely on him heavily,” said Girardi when asked about CC Sabathia‘s opt-out clause. “I can’t imagine what it would be like without him. I don’t want to imagine what it would be like without him.” Girardi did acknowledge that Sabathia gained a few pounds during the course of the season, but he didn’t think it affected his performance.
- On A.J. Burnett: “He’s a work in progress … lost a mile or two [off his fastball] … the adjust he made from August to September really helped him. I think we can count on him, and we’re going to need him.”
- On Phil Hughes: “We consider him a starter, we do, but he’s got to get back to the form he had in 2010 to continue to stay in our rotation. He’s gotta stay healthy, that’s the other thing.” When asked about Hughes’ conditioning, Girardi said the right-hander is “in shape to do the job” and is happy with everyone’s work ethic.
- “I would assume that they would both be part of our rotation,” said Girardi, referring to Hughes and Ivan Nova. “Nothing in life is every given to you, you have to earn it.”
- On rotation depth: “[Hector Noesi]‘s a guy that can start to challenge [for a starting spot].” Girardi mentioned D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps, Adam Warren, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances by name as players that could push for a rotation spot at some point next year, but Noesi was the first one out of his mouth.
- “The one need we’re going to have to address again is our rotation,” added the skipper. “It starts with CC, go from there.” When asked about adding a high-end starter even if Sabathia returns, Girardi replied: “That’s something that I’m sure we’ll look at doing.”
- Girardi said all possibilities will be considered with the lineup, including Brett Gardner at leadoff. “Are you going to add? If we add someone, how do they fit in the lineup?” The batting order is something they’ll address in Spring Training.
- “[Alex Rodriguez] is someone we need to keep healthy, first and foremost,” said the skipper. “If he plays 145-150 games, I think he’ll be much more productive.” The meniscus tear and sprained thumb were freak injuries more than anything, and Girardi said A-Rod was not more hurt than he led on down the stretch. “My expectation is he’ll be our third baseman, he might DH a little bit.”
- On Mark Teixeira: “Some of it is luck. I think he made more contact this year than he did in the past. Using the whole field will become important … so they can’t shift. He made a small adjustment on his openness to cut down on [balls hit into the shift] … I think he can give us more than that … I believe all of our guys can give us more. Tex, I don’t believe he’s a .240 hitter, no I don’t believe that.”
- “Our guys will try to make adjustments to get their numbers back to where they’re used to having them,” added Girardi when asked about players who had down years.
- On Jesus Montero: “It’s something that we will look at in Spring Training, heavily. I can’t tell you exactly what the makeup of our team will be behind the plate. Montero’s a guy that can probably do a lot of different things, DH some, catch some, gotta see the makeup of our team. I was very pleased with his at-bats in the month of September. Lot of upside there.”
- “We expect him to have another good year and be productive for us,” said Girardi when asked about Derek Jeter. “When you’re an older player, people are always going to wonder.”
- When asked about being too dependent on homers: “I think our offense became a little more diversified this year with the speed we had. [The homers are] part of who were are, part of the age we live in … from a speed standpoint, we can do a lot more things, we can do a lot more things this year than in years previous.”
- “I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen with [Jorge Posada], but whenever you do say goodbye to someone, it’s difficult,” said Girardi. “When a player leaves a new player comes in, and I’m not saying that’s going to happen … if this is it, we’re going to miss him. There’s no doubt about it, we’re going to miss the intensity he brings.”
- On the coaching staff: “The first guy that has to get done is Brian Cashman. I’m happy with my coaches, but that’s something I’ll talk about with Brian when the time comes.” Doesn’t seem like there will be any changes here.
- On players pressing, in general: “I think you can do things to try and help players, but part of it has to come from within, part of it has to come from experience. It’s something we continually work on from a physical and mental standpoint.”
- “Add a corner [infield] guy? Possibly. I’m sure we’ll look at that,” said Girardi, who expressed confidence in Eduardo Nunez being able to fill in all around the infield. “[Nunez] might even play more positions next year.”
- Girardi joked that he could have “batted Gardy fourth and stacked my lefties” because Gardner was hitting so well in the postseason. The primary reason they used the same lineup in each game of the ALDS was that they faced four right-handed starters. If they faced a lefty, Girardi said the lineup would have looked very different.
- “We didn’t reach out goal, that’s the bottom line,” said Girardi when asked if the season was a failure. “Bottom line is we didn’t get it done, and it starts with me.”